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MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

The UK government has tasked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government’s independent advisers on migration, to examine the role EU nationals’ play in the UK economy and society.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, engaged the MAC to look into the British labor market, the overall role of migration in the wider economy, and how a modern industrial strategy should align with the UK’s immigration system. The MAC will consult with a wide cross-section of businesses, employer organizations and EU citizens working in the UK.

The importance of this initiative should not be underestimated, as free movement will end when the UK exits the EU. The government is working on plans to develop the flow of migration from Europe. (See: The rights of EU citizens in the UK, The Global Mobility Review, July 13, 2017 blog post). The UK and the European Commission had key discussions at the end of July, and the next round of negotiations is scheduled for late August 2017.

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MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

The rights of EU citizens in the UK

The UK government has published a policy paper setting out its offer to EU citizens and their families residing in the UK regarding their right to remain in the country post-Brexit. The offer differs depending on how long a person has been in the UK.

People who have been continuously living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting “settled status.” A settled status residence document will be issued to prove an individual’s permission to continue living and working in the UK. Those already with an EU permanent residence document will be required to apply. The application process should come online before the UK leaves the EU, hopefully in 2018. The government has pledged to make the process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.

Other EU citizens in the UK will be subject to a “cut-off date” after which they will no longer be automatically entitled to stay. The date is still to be negotiated, but may fall at any point between March 29, 2017 (the date that Article 50 was triggered) and the date that the UK leaves the EU.

EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the cut-off date, but who have not been here for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay temporarily until they have reached the five-year threshold, at which time they also can apply for settled status as set out above.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under future immigration arrangements for EU citizens. The arrangements have yet to be determined, but the government stated that there should be no expectation by this group of people that they will obtain settled status.

Please visit The Global Mobility Review next month for further information on this development.

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The rights of EU citizens in the UK

Status of EU citizens in the UK

The Home Office has sent a communication to interested parties following the government’s publication of a paper outlining its offer to EU citizens in the UK. The government has reiterated its position that no action need currently be taken. “The UK will remain a member of the EU until March 2019 and there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, during this time. So, EU citizens do not need to apply for documentation confirming their status now.”

The government’s policy paper sets out that the government will be asking EU citizens to make an application to the Home Office for a residence document demonstrating their new settled status. It aims to make the process as “streamlined and user-friendly as possible for all individuals, including those who already hold a permanent residence document under current free movement rules.” It is expected the new application system will be up and running in 2018.

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Status of EU citizens in the UK

UK Queen’s speech: What might immigration look like after Brexit?

It may not have been accompanied by the usual pomp and circumstance, but the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, June 21 did provide some further clues as to what the government has planned for EU nationals post-Brexit. In the speech, the Queen confirmed that there are plans for an immigration bill that, if passed, will enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK, but still allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best.” The bill would require EU nationals and their families to be “subject to relevant UK law,” she said.

This seems to suggest that we can expect to see a skills-based immigration system for EU workers following Brexit. Reading in between the lines, it also seems we can expect that EU nationals already working in the UK who choose to remain will be allowed to do so. However, those who do choose to remain will be subject exclusively to UK law, and will no longer enjoy the protections afforded by the European Court of Justice. Presumably this would work along the lines of Norway’s membership in the single market.

Currently EU nationals in the UK are advised to apply for permanent residency if they meet the qualifying criteria. The thinking being this may be sufficient to secure their stay in the UK after Brexit. Theresa May is in Brussels for Brexit talks today, where she is set to address EU leaders on her plans for the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK, and the 1 million UK citizens currently residing in mainland Europe. We understand that full details of her plans will be published on Monday, ending the uncertainty that currently hangs over those who have exercised their right to freedom of movement, and over their employers.

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UK Queen’s speech: What might immigration look like after Brexit?

UK General Election–immigration manifesto

What’s going to happen to UK immigration in a post-Brexit era? That’s the million-dollar question. While there has been huge speculation as to what our immigration system and net migration figures are likely to look like going forward, little clarity has been provided as yet.

Jeremy Corbyn has sent the message that he intends to toughen up on immigration. The Labour Party has acknowledged that free movement of workers across borders is likely to not be possible once the UK leaves the EU, but has stated that imposing new immigration controls will not be at the top of its list of priorities if it wins the election. It’s not really clear where that message leaves us when trying to predict what the new model is going to look like.

The Conservatives, for their part, have indicated that they will stick by pledges made in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto to cut migration to “tens of thousands,” despite having missed the target after making the same promise in 2010 and 2015. Again, it’s not clear from their rhetoric how they hope to achieve this, although Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated that when the UK leaves the EU, the nation will have the opportunity to make sure it has control of its borders.

Meanwhile, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has gone one step further, as it is prone to do, pledging to cut net migration levels to zero within five years by asking skilled workers and students to get visas and banning migration into the UK for unskilled and low skilled workers. This time it’s not clear how UKIP intend to do the math to achieve a net migration level of zero.

And then there are the Liberal Democrats who are against stricter migration controls. Tim Farron, their leader, recently tweeted that “immigration is a blessing and not a curse.”

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UK General Election–immigration manifesto

Update on EEA applications for UK permanent residence

Due to continuing uncertainty following the Brexit vote, EEA nationals who qualify are acting now to secure their right to stay in the UK.

No doubt to help with the influx of permanent residence applications received from EEA nationals, the Home Office is making changes to its application procedures. Starting October 1, 2016, European passports filed with applications on forms EEA(QP) or EEA(PR) can take advantage of a “return service.”

This means that a local authority, such as a county council or city council, can, for a fee, photocopy the passport and forward a copy, with the checklist and application, to the Home Office. This will enable the applicant to keep his or her passport while the Home Office is processing the application. If the application is caught up in a backlog, at least the EEA national retains the original passport.

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Update on EEA applications for UK permanent residence

Dual nationality may be an option for Brits who live or work in the EU

EU passport GBThe German vice chancellor has called on certain EU countries (including Italy and France) to offer young British citizens who live or work in those countries the opportunity to apply for dual nationality. This follows the speculation and confusion after the UK referendum to leave the European Union. This would allow those British citizens a chance to remain EU citizens.

Some countries (EU and otherwise) permit dual nationality, sometimes under limited circumstances, while others do not. France allows naturalization without renouncing foreign citizenship, as does Italy. The UK, US and Germany, on the other hand, generally does not and only fairly recent created an exception that requires German citizens to apply for a waiver before naturalizing in another country.

Recent opinion polls showed that more than 70 percent of UK young citizens voted to remain in the EU and there is increasing concern from UK citizens about their long-term status in other EU countries. Many fear the UK’s exit from the EU will remove the existing free movement of people, or make this ability limited with excessively burdensome and restrictive procedures. Therefore, it is likely that many Britons will want to explore this alternative and hold on to the opportunity to live and work in the other 27 countries that form the EU.

Residents of Germany can apply for citizenship after eights years on the condition that they pass a German language skills test and a naturalization assessment (among other things). Further, German law requires non-EU citizens to give up their existing nationality when applying for German citizenship. However, the German ministry has suggested that it would like to allow British individuals to hold on to their UK citizenship even if they apply for naturalization after the UK subsequently leaves the EU.

For all of the positive aspects of dual nationality giving the right to live and work in an EU country, it is worth pointing out that there are obligations that may accompany taking on another country’s citizenship. Some EU countries have mandatory military service that would probably be more likely to impact the “young” Brits. And while tangential to the topic of dual citizenship, it should be noted that many EU countries have exit taxes on unrealized capital gains that might be imposed if an individual changes their residence for tax purposes or moves taxable assets from one country to another.

For now, while leaders negotiate the exit strategy, the UK remains part of the EU and British citizens still have full rights to work or study in other EU countries. Only time will tell whether they will continue to have this opportunity in the post-Brexit world.

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Dual nationality may be an option for Brits who live or work in the EU

Brexit, a global perspective in the immediate aftermath…

Brexit Immigration

Following the UK’s EU referendum, the UK has a clear mandate for exit from the European Union. There is doubt, however, about what the future may look like for the UK and its relationship with Europe or the rest of the world. It is likely that there will now be a prolonged transition period, with the next UK government needing time to plan, prepare and negotiate the UK’s future.

Some key thoughts in the meantime:

  • For UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU, and EU nationals living in the UK, there will be no immediate change. Protection of citizens already established in those states is likely to form part of negotiations between the UK and the EU.
  • Free movement of EU citizens is expected to be negotiated as a condition of any trade deal between the UK and the EU. However, if ultimately the UK decides to no longer share in the EU’s right to free movement of labor, then citizens of other member states will not enjoy an automatic right to work, travel and live in the UK. Similarly, UK citizens will not enjoy EU citizenship rights. Prior to the referendum, the UK had already made it more difficult for EU citizens to gain permanent residence in the UK. However, the UK government will be aware that imposing fundamental limits on the free movement of labor at this time could make the UK a much less attractive destination for international businesses and skilled and educated migrants.
  • Nationals of other countries working in the UK, such as from the US, should see no imminent changes. The UK government is saying that the UK is open for business on a global scale. This is an opportunity to grow and strengthen relationships across the globe. At present the UK is not seeing any large-scale recruitment freezes or job losses.
  • Trade and investment are good for the UK’s employment growth and stability. The UK government will want to keep a level playing field with the UK’s European counterparts, and look for opportunities across the globe, at this crucial time. One key area where it will want to display its good practice is data protection. Realistically, a trade deal between the UK and the EU may also mean the UK continuing to be subject to key EU legislation.
  • The UK has a body of homegrown legislation protecting UK employment law rights. The fundamental right that exists in the UK to claim unfair dismissal will not be affected by its withdrawal from Europe. The UK also had discrimination laws in place before its ascension to the EU; EU aims and legislation are so established in UK good employment practice that they are likely to remain fundamentally the same for now. While moving to a US-style system, where employees receive lower overall protection, is possible, it is unlikely in the short term, given the broader cultural change needed to accept the US norms.
  • Subject to the above, EU rights, or improvements in those rights, in the UK may eventually be diminished or lost. However, it seems likely that grand proposals will eventually be reduced to a few smaller, less significant changes. If the UK is not required to keep EU legislation in these areas as part of a broader deal, the government may review and make changes to the current position in a number of areas, such as: (i) harmonization of terms following a TUPE transfer, (ii) limits on bankers’ bonuses, (iii) working time controls, (iv) collective redundancy consultation, (v) agency workers’ rights and (vi) the absence of a cap on discrimination awards.
  • If the UK is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, UK case law may develop in a slightly different direction. This may mean a gradual parting of ways between the UK and EU states.

On balance, it is most likely that the next government will want to preserve the status quo, at least in the short term, and wait for the dust to settle before looking for opportunities to make more fundamental and valuable changes. Dentons will keep you posted as the picture evolves.

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Brexit, a global perspective in the immediate aftermath…